A tractor-trailer carrying central American migrants bound for the United States border crashed in southern Mexico on Thursday, killing 55 of the migrants who were packed into the trailer and wounding another 100, according to the Associated Press.
The crash occurred in Tuxtle Gutierrez in southern Mexico, near the Guatemalan border. Most of the migrants aboard were believed to be from Guatemala and Honduras, and according to the survivors, their ultimate destination was the United States. The crash occurred when the truck crashed into a steel pedestrian bridge and the trailer turned over.
As an indication of the horrifying conditions inside the trailer, ABC News reports that the first 45 bodies who were identified as being dead were found without any evidence of broken bones or other visible injuries, but rather died of asphyxiation from being crushed by the mass of bodies in the overturned trailer.
ABC reports that the force of the crash slammed the migrants into each other, into the steel sides of the trailer, and even threw some out onto the roadway. About 20 of the migrants were noted to have fractured bones, and a large number of others had brain injuries or severe internal damage, including crushed pelvises and ribcages.
Those who arrived from Tuxtle Gutierrez to help the wounded described a horrific scene of attempting to extricate severely wounded migrants from piles of dead bodies. The driver, who apparently fled the scene and whose whereabouts are unknown, is believed to have entered a sharp turn at a high rate of speed, causing him to lose control of the trailer, which slammed into a pedestrian bridge outside the city.
According to the Associated Press, most of the deaths were noted to be among those who were unlucky enough to be riding along the outside, next to the trailer walls. One of the migrants who was in the trailer told the AP, “The ones who died were the ones who were up against the walls of the trailer. Thank God, we were in the middle, but the ones on the sides, they died.” Mexican authorities said that the weight of the load in the trailer may have contributed to the crash.
The Mexican government has publicly stated that they are attempting to staunch the flow of Central American walking migrant caravans in deference to the wishes of the Biden administration, but vehicle smuggling remains a booming business in Mexico. The head of Mexico’s National Guard told the AP that “the truck had somehow managed to avoid passing through any of the roadside checkpoints operated by the Guard and immigration authorities to catch such smuggling operations.”
Guatemalan foreign minister Pedro Brolo reacted to the tragedy by calling for tougher penalties on migrant smugglers, saying, “We have to toughen the punishment for those who profit off our people.”
Meanwhile, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador continued to blame the United States for failing to provide more financial aid to Central America as the root cause of the tragedy. “We have been insisting that the causes that originate these unfortunate events must be addressed,” he said.